Is it OK to use expired shampoo and conditioner?

Using expired beauty products like shampoo and conditioner is a common question many people have. While it may seem harmless to continue using your favorite shampoo past its expiration date to get every last drop out of the bottle, there are a few things to consider before lathering up.

What happens when shampoo expires?

Shampoo and conditioner, like many beauty products, come with expiration dates to indicate how long the formula is designed to remain stable and effective. As these products get older, a few things can start to happen:

  • The ingredients can start to naturally degrade and destabilize over time.
  • Preservatives that help prevent bacterial growth can become less effective.
  • The fragrance can start to change as essential oils and aromas break down.
  • The product can become contaminated once opened from use in the shower.
  • The formula and texture can become compromised, making the shampoo less effective.

So in summary, as shampoo and conditioner age beyond their expiration dates, the stability, integrity, and effectiveness of the formulations can start to go downhill.

Is it dangerous to use expired shampoo and conditioner?

Using expired shampoo or conditioner that is a few months past its expiration date is generally not dangerous. However, here are a few risks to be aware of:

  • Mild skin or scalp irritation – As formulas degrade, they may cause temporary irritation for some people with sensitive skin.
  • Increased bacteria – The preservatives don’t work as well over time at preventing microbial growth once opened.
  • Residue buildup – Old shampoos may not rinse as cleanly, causing dull hair and product buildup.
  • Dryness and frizz – Outdated conditioners may not moisturize as well leading to stripped, dry hair.

However, for most people, occasional use of recently expired products like shampoo or conditioner (within several months past expiration) is unlikely to cause major issues. But those with sensitivities should be extra cautious.

How long past expiration is it safe to keep using shampoo or conditioner?

As a general guideline, shampoo and conditioner can often be used for up to one year past their printed expiration date if stored properly. Here are some tips:

  • Store products in a cool, dry place out of direct sun to prolong shelf life.
  • If liquid products develop changes in smell, texture, or color, it’s time to toss them.
  • Stop use immediately if you notice scalp irritation, redness, or itching.
  • Write the date you opened the bottle on the label to keep track of when products were first used.
  • Don’t add water or mix products together to try extending their life.
  • Don’t purchase large bulk sizes if you won’t use it all up within 6-12 months.

As the expiration date approaches, be diligent about looking for changes. Trust your senses. If it doesn’t look, feel or smell normal, the product has likely reached the end of its shelf life. When in doubt, throw it out (or recycle!).

Does shampoo really expire?

Yes, shampoo does technically expire and degrade in effectiveness over time. However, the printed expiration date is simply an estimate for when the manufacturer believes its formula will remain stable under proper storage conditions. It doesn’t mean the shampoo instantly goes rancid or becomes unusable after that date.

High quality shampoos with preservatives and stable formulas can often last 12-18 months past their expiration date if unopened. Once opened, air exposure quickens the breakdown of certain ingredients. So an open bottle should be used within 6-12 months for best effect.

The key is to watch for changes in appearance, texture and scent and stop use if anything seems off or causes an adverse reaction. Just because the bottle still contains fluid doesn’t mean you should keep using it indefinitely.

Tips for making your shampoo last longer

To maximize the life of your shampoo and conditioner before needing to repurchase them, follow these tips:

  • Store bottles upright and tightly sealed in a cool, dark place like under the sink.
  • Don’t keep products in the shower where heat and humidity can accelerate breakdown.
  • Limit exposing the remaining product to air by pumping instead of pouring out each use.
  • Don’t dilute products by adding water which can introduce bacteria.
  • Use clean hands to dispense products to avoid contamination.
  • Don’t share products between multiple people to limit bacterial exposure.
  • Purchase smaller bottle sizes if you won’t use up larger volumes quickly.

Additionally, clarifying your hair and scalp 1-2 times per month can allow you to stretch out the time between shampooing, allowing each bottle to last longer.

Signs it’s definitely time to toss your products

While shampoo and conditioner can often be safely used for some time after expiration, certain signs mean it’s definitely time to throw them out:

  • Change in color or opacity – should look clear to translucent.
  • Separation, clumping, or sediment in the formula.
  • Unnatural smell, especially rancid or rotten.
  • Mold visible in the bottle.
  • Scalp reactions like itching, flaking or breakouts after use.
  • Hair looks greasy, frizzy or feels gummy after washing.
  • Liquid is very thick and difficult to dispense.
  • More than 1 year past expiration even if unopened.

Don’t take risks with contaminated products. At the first sign of trouble, stop using and replace it. Your hair and scalp health are too important!

Can expired shampoo make your hair fall out?

Using expired shampoo alone is very unlikely to cause hair loss or make your hair fall out. Hair loss is usually caused by factors like genetics, hormonal changes, medical conditions, or damage from styling and processing.

However, severely contaminated shampoo that contains a lot of bacteria or fungus could potentially contribute to some hair shedding if it damages the scalp. But this would be accompanied by obvious scalp irritation, itching, redness, and dandruff as well.

In reality, mild formulas that are within several months of expiration are very unlikely to have any effect on hair loss. But if you have concerns about excess shedding when using an expired product, discontinue use. See a dermatologist to identify the cause of hair loss instead of assuming it’s the shampoo.

Does conditioner expire faster than shampoo?

Yes, conditioner tends to have a shorter shelf life than shampoo. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Conditioners have a higher water content, which provides an environment for more microbial growth.
  • Thicker conditioner formulas tend to physically break down quicker.
  • Conditioners contain emollients that can oxidize and degrade faster.
  • Preservatives work differently in thicker leave-on products compared to rinse-off ones.

For optimal freshness and performance, use conditioner within 6 months of opening. Discard unopened conditioner after about a year past the expiration date to be safe. If the product ever looks or smells odd, it’s better to toss it out regardless of the expiration date.

Do natural or organic shampoos expire faster?

Yes, natural and organic shampoos and conditioners often have a shorter shelf life compared to conventional products. There are a few reasons for this:

  • They use weaker preservative systems to meet clean beauty standards.
  • Plant-based ingredients can oxidize and degrade faster.
  • Essential oils and fragrances break down over time.
  • Formulas are often purposely less stabilized.
  • Lack of certain chelating agents reduces longevity.

For optimal freshness, use natural shampoo within 6-9 months after opening. And discard unopened products after about 6 months past expiration. Always do a freshness check for changes in smell, texture, or performance.


While shampoo and conditioner can often last 6-12 months past their printed expiration date, it’s ideal to use beauty products while fresh. Store shampoos properly, watch for signs of degradation, and toss them at the first hint of an off smell or formula change. Being cautious will ensure you get the best cleansing and conditioning results from your hair products.

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